The difference between Apple's iPhone and its iPod Touch used to be a pretty bright line: One is a telephone and the other is not. That difference, though, is starting to fade as voice over IP providers begin to develop applications that allow iTouch users to utilize their Wi-Fi connections to turn the device into a fully functioning telephone.
There's only one hitch: Without a Wi-Fi connection, the iTouch is still, well, an iTouch.
VOIP provider Jajah is the latest to join the fray, introducing Feb. 5 a white label solution for carriers and noncarriers alike to brand and market an iTouch-into-an-iPhone service. Jajah's service includes the application itself, in addition to a suite of management services, from termination of the calls and quality control through billing and processing payments in 200 countries around the world.
"We offer a complete turnkey solution. We offer our back-end platform to other companies," said Paul Naphtali, Jajah's vice president of global marketing. "We are in conversations now with some carriers."
The Jajah VOIP platform is already used by a number of the world's largest companies, including Intel, Yahoo and Comcast. Jajah, for instance, provisions all of Yahoo's VOIP service, including telephony infrastructure, payment processing and customer care.
"Millions of people around the world already have an iPod Touch in their pocket. With Jajah's solution, any company can turn their customers' iPod Touch into a fully functioning mobile phone," Jajah CEO Trevor Healy said in a statement. "The device is particularly popular amongst students, who live in a world where Wi-Fi access is always available and, like everyone, they are looking to save costs, so this is a perfect solution."
As Jajah, based in Mountain View, Calif., sees it, any company that brands its iTouch service will, in turn, make an app available for download at Apple's iTunes.
Truphone, on the other hand, already has a free app at iTunes that allows iTouch owners to turn their device into a mobile phone. Like the Jajah app, users can make low-cost calls and send SMS messages using a Wi-Fi network.
In January, Truphone further enhanced its services by offering Skype functionality for both iPhones and iTouches. According to Truphone, Skype users can make and send calls and fire off instant messages to the entire Skype user base using an iTouch or an iPhone.
"The introduction of Skype calling and instant messaging represents yet another breakthrough for Truphone," Truphone CEO Geraldine Wilson said in a statement. "What this means for Truphone's customers is that they can now call or message all their Skype friends using their iPhone or iPod Touch. This allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to have a choice in how they stay in touch with friends and colleagues around the world-all within the one application."